When to Use Urgent Care Instead of the ER

If you're injured, the first place you may think to go is the emergency room. But more and people are turning to urgent care facilities.

"If people need care and they don't have a lot of time or they're feeling uncomfortable, urgent care gives them an option," said Shaun Ginter, CEO of CareWell Urgent.

One of those people is Ann Joyce.

"I've been sick going on three weeks now," Joyce told NBC Boston's Jason Frazer. "You don't want to go to an ER. You'll be there for 10, 12, 20 hours. It's too busy."

According to the Urgent Care Association of America, visits cost an average of $150, while the average emergency room visit is more than $1,300. Advocates also say patients also don't have to wait so long to see a doctor.

"Average urgent care visits are between 45 minutes and an hour," said Ginter.

As critics warn, however, all urgent care facilities aren't equal.

"There's the disparity of urgent care facilities. There's a really big difference between a Minute Clinic at CVS, which is great for sore throats and flu shots, versus what we do at Beth Israel, which is an advanced urgent care staffed by emergency physicians where we have CTS, Ultrasounds and X-Rays," said Dr. Barbara Masser of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Some critics also have concerns about continuity of care and ensuring primary care doctors know exactly what patients were treated for.

"Urgent care is an episodic visit," said Masser. "We see you, we diagnosis your problem and we discharge you. Within the greater system of care, many patients need follow-ups."

Carewell says at its facilities, though, things are different.

"We focus on making sure that the medical records of a patient flow back to their primary physician or a specialist they might need," Ginter told NBC Boston.

Experts say if you're facing a life-threating injury, go to the ER. But if you have a bump, a bruise or even the flu, urgent care may be right choice for you.

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